Rudolph Farias, John Garcia, Robert Manzanales and Gregory Rosa.
If you've got an outstanding traffic citation from HPD, you'll want to check to see if any of these officers scrawled their name on your ticket. In light of an internal investigation into charges that the officers ran a ticket-rigging scam, bilking the department for thousands of dollars in overtime pay, HPD and the city attorney's office have opted to dismiss some 6,000 traffic tickets.
"In the interest of justice and in fairness, it's the right thing to do," HPD Chief Charles McClelland told reporters yesterday. "If there's any perception that these citations may be tainted or somebody questions the legitimacy or credibility of those, it is better to dismiss them."
It appears huge overtime payouts were the motivation behind the scam. According to KHOU, which first broke the story last month, an analysis of speeding tickets showed dozens of times in which the officers were listed in two places at once. By listing each other as witnesses on citations, even though they weren't present, the cops could rake in the overtime in municipal court appearances.
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Farias, who shot and killed himself inside his patrol car last month after the department relieved him of duty, made a whopping $158,000 in overtime over the past three years. How much of that overtime was related to the ticket-rigging scheme is unclear. The three other officers remain under criminal investigation.
The city attorney's office advised anyone with an outstanding ticket issued by the four suspect cops to attend their next court hearing, and the citation will be dismissed. However, apparently you're outta luck if the ticket's been settled for longer than 10 days.
Ticket rigging isn't exactly a new trick at HPD, either. In 2012, the department caught four veteran officers pulling the same shit. Those officers - Paul S. Terry, Matthew L. Davis, Steven L. Running, and Kenneth L. Bigger - banked a collective $1 million in overtime over the course of four years, according to an old Chron report. Their punishment? The cops "admitted to breaking various rules, including failure to use sound judgment," and got to keep their jobs after unpaid suspensions ranging from 20 to 45 days.
If that's the punishment, not such a bad racket, huh?